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Fla. captain who lost hand to gator faces illegal feeding charge

July 30, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • A Florida boat captain who lost his hand to an alligator has been charged with illegal feeding of the reptiles. He could face a fine and jail time.
A Florida boat captain who lost his hand to an alligator has been charged… (Rodrigo Arangua / AFP/Getty…)

Talk about adding insult to injury: A Florida tour boat captain whose left hand was eaten by an alligator has been charged with illegally feeding the reptiles.

Wallace Weatherholt, 63, now faces a misdemeanor charge of unlawful feeding of an alligator, and is slated to return to court on Aug. 22 to face the charges, according to the Fort Myers News-Press. He faces a fine of up to $500 and possible jail time, the paper reported.

The defendant was working for Captain Doug's Everglades Tours last month when he took six tourists out on the water and paused to give them a thrill -- and a photo op.

Witnesses say he began slapping the water to attract alligators, using marshmallows and fish as bait. That's when a 9-foot alligator breached the surface of the water and clamped down on Weatherholt's left hand.

One of the tourists, Judy Chroniak-Hatt of Indiana told WBBH at the time that the gator then resurfaced and struck the side of the boat, leaving Chroniak-Hatt and others fearful the craft was going to overturn.

Weatherholt was airlifted to a hospital. Authorities tracked down and euthanized the alligator, and even retrieved the hand from its stomach, but reattachment was not possible, according to news reports.

A representative for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission did not return a phone call seeking details before this story was posted.

Efforts to reach a representative for Captain Doug's Everglades Tours was also unsuccessful.

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+ and Twitter. Email: rene.lynch@latimes.com

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